J.B.Humphrey - The Alien Who Never Was
researched by David
with the kind help of the experts on The Great War Forum
The mystery of Private J.B.Humphrey (JBH) has languished on the
for over a hundred years now, no record exists on the Commonwealth War
Graves Commission website and if he had died 'broken in health' after
the cut-off date of 31st August 1921 there is no civilian
death record either.
An initial candidate I came up with many moons ago was 2nd Lt
Idwal Ben Humphrey (IBH) of the King's Liverpool Regiment but dimissed
because of his initials and his rank.
We know from Fred Applebee's beautifully kept 'school register'
type records he played 10 games for the 1XV and 2XV in the 1913-14
J.B.Humphrey is playing in the full-back position on the team sheet]
joined the club on the 6th September 1913, the proposer looks as if it
was entered at a later date.
The keen eyes of the Great War Forum (GWF) suggested that perhaps
JBH may have been a friend or work colleague of his proposer
Gwilym Madoc-Jones, a bank clerk apprentice by the 1911 census. A
quick look at my notes revealed a number of banking staff :-
Gwilym Madoc-Jones - bank clerk
Trevor Madoc-Jones - bank clerk
H.A.Smith - bank clerk
H.Bateman - bank clerk
J.R.Whittle MC - bank clerk going on to manager at Martins Bank
See team photos:-
Aliens 2XV - 1912/13
Aliens 1XV - 1912/13
GWF brought up details from "A History of the 2/6th (Rifles)
Battalion King's Liverpool Regt" by Capt C.E.Wurtzburg containing a
...and who should pop up also in the
Private Gwilym Madoc Jones 2955, same Regiment and joining up a
GWF now focused their attention also on Idwal Ben Humphrey, a
newspaper obituary is found that reveals a crucial piece of evidence.
So Idwal Ben Humphrey worked in the bank on Castle Street, things
are now indicating the fact that JBH and IBH may be of the same person,
can we prove it ?
Peter (PRC) on GWF observes:-
[Idwal Ben Humphrey,
born Jones at Liverpool circa 1895 was proposed as a member
of the Sefton RUFC by Gwilym Madoc Jones, born Liverpool circa 1895 and
both end up accepted to play for a team of schoolmasters - anyone else
suspect star students or even relatives :-)
Idwal Ben Humphrey, a Bank Clerk, is proposed by Gwilym Madoc,
Bank Clerk - what's the betting its the same bank.
I would suspect it would be difficult even in a city the size of
Liverpool to turn out 15 teachers in a competitive side so some
dilution is inevitable, particularly if it brings quality to the team.]
employment with the City and Midland Bank in Liverpool started on 12
August 1913, less than a month prior to him joining the Aliens.
IBH and a T.Madoc (brother of Gwilym Madoc Jones) appear on the Midland
Bank War Roll
According to History of the 2/6th JBH left the battalion on the
December 1914 to be commissioned. The only way anything could be proved
would involve a trip to the National Archives at Kew in London and pull
Officers Record File, but as an off-chance I knew the Museum of
Liverpool Life at the Pier Head had an online resource to the King's
Regiment known as the Devereux database.
Bated breath, heart pumping, trepidation, the letters are typed
in on the screen.....
The screen says "He originally enlisted
in Liverpool on 11/9/14 and was posted to 6 KLR as No. 2412, was 5
foot seven and 140lbs"
available at Museum of Liverpool Life]
History of the 2/6th states Humphrey, J.B 2412 is commisioned on 3rd
December 1914 and this matches perfectly with the narrative contained
Devereux record for I.B.Humphrey.
So welcome to Sefton Rugby Club, step
forward 5'7" and 10 stone full-back 2nd Lt Idwal Ben Humphrey, he must
have been quick !
He may have been J.B in his earlier days, was it a nickname or
something ?, more than likely there was a misinterpretation of a
cursive ' J ' and a cursive ' I ', or had he 'gone posh' and returned to his
given name on being commissioned ?
[Idwal B. Jones
at Hendrewaelod Mansion, Llansantffraid Glan
Conwy in 1901,
aged 5 yrs.
Living with father
William H. and mother Alice.
You can see that
William and Idwal were both born in Liverpool, Alice in Somersetshire,
and although William spoke Welsh (and English), Idwal spoke only
It was unusual
not unheard of) for that era for children to drop the family surname in
The Welsh system
surnames was based on patronym persisted widely into the first half of
the 19th century, whereby if Humphrey Jones had a son, Idwal, he would
become Idwal Humphrey.But by the mid 1800s, the Welsh had switched to
the English surname system.
That explains why
there are so many Jones', Davies' & Williams' in
Wales-. There were only a relatively few christian names in use in
Wales at the time- John, David, William, Thomas, James etc, and when
the switch to the new system occurred (it didn't happen overnight) ,
the commonest surnames turned out to be the commonest christian names
of the previous generation.
The earliest male
ancestor of mine in my father's direct line was a James Davies. His son
was Evan (b1788) and was Evan James. The family stuck with that surname
rather than Davies.
But in many areas
Wales, the patronymic system survived another half century or more.
And we see this
commonly today in Wales where it is quite fashionable to drop the
standard anglicised surname.
But I think we are
seeing a slightly different thing here:
A prosperous man,
chemical manufacturer/merchant from a Welsh family
background born in Liverpool and whose father was keen for the
son to prosper in the Victorian/Edwardian Society.
They do after all,
live in a mansion, not in a Plas or on a farm
perhaps just a little bit too common for him, so that was dropped in
favour of 'Humphrey' as a surname, sometime between 1901 and 1911 when
he appears in private school in the Isle of Man.] contributed by Dai Bach
Humphrey of the 14th Battalion of the King's (Liverpool) Regiment sadly
died of wounds on the 14th September 1916, most probably from the
consequences of operations on the previous day in the Battle of
Machukovo, now in Macedonia.
Between 13th and 14th September 1916, during the Salonika Campaign,
the King's (Liverpool) Regiment and Lancashire Fusiliers stormed and
took the village of Machukovo which was held by German forces.
was too exposed to the enemy's artillery fire, and the British were
forced to retreat.
[The Almanac of WW1]
The following quotation comes from the third volume of Everard
Wyrall’s “The History of the King’s Regiment
(Liverpool) 1914-1919”, page 591, location Macukovo Ravine:
"At 9.30 p.m. Second-Lieut. Bryson
and Second-Lieut. I. B. Humphrey took out patrols to investigate the
enemy's wire, the latter officer becoming mortally wounded in carrying
out his orders; he died on the 14th.”
The main fighting took place the
next day, so it seems that he was wounded during a pre-battle
reconnaissance. There aren’t any other references to Humphrey in
that book, I’m afraid, other than listing his death in the
depressingly long list of casualties in the index. [Thanks to Scott Roberts]
Lt Idwal Ben Humphrey
This article appeared in the newspaper
in 1924 and left us with an interesting quotation.
The comments may have been from
Applebee himself or they may have been from an ill-informed,
enthusiastic journalist some 6 years after the war in 1924.
deduced that JBH was from the scholastic profession and was the guy who
died in broken health
between 1918 and at the latest 1924.
We can now identify at this moment in
time IBH was the poor chap who had "died of wounds" .
So that leaves us with just somebody
who had "returned so broken in health he has since gone under".
Further research has come up with the likely contender in H.W.Mitchell
who was a founder member of The Aliens and sadly passed away in January
of 1924, this fits in well with Fred's
Hugh William Mitchell was born in
Bristol 1885, attended Borough Road Teacher Training College in London
with what turned out to be a few of his team mates and moved up to
Liverpool in 1906 for a teaching post at Upper Park Street Council
[FindMyPast - Teacher Registration]
Shortly after the outbreak of the Great War, Hugh enlisted with 1st
West Lancs Field Ambulance and was lucky enough to miss out on the
disastrous 29th Division operation of Gallipoli.
Looking at his team photos he looks a very slight person and perhaps he
was deemed not strong enough to go overseas.
He continued with active service 'On the Second Line' but something
serious happened to him in mid-1915 and he was discharged receiving the
His Silver War Badge declaration states there was no
[Ancestry - medal entitlement]
Paragraph 392 (XVI) of the King's Regulations states:-
xvi) No longer physically fit for
Perhaps he contracted tuberculosis or nephritis and was "so broken in
health", however there was nothing in the King's Regs for mental
illness as it was obviously a developing science.
Hugh married at the end of 1915 in Liverpool to a local lass Janet
Maltman, but whether he returned to work is unknown. The teacher
registration document states a date of 1920 but apparently this
registration was only on a voluntary basis at the cost of one guinea
(there were a number of local general strikes in 1919 to force
to take back discharged soldiers into roles that had been taken by
It looks like his health deteriorated further and he returned to
Bristol to be with close family, finally succumbing in January 1924.
[Silver War Badge]
Hugh William Mitchell
Once again well done The Great War
Forum Pals !
Aliens RFC, Seft0n
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